Winner of the 2019 Banjo Prize for Fiction
She’s isolated. Trapped. Hunted. An almost unbearably tense Australian survival thriller.
Not much daylight left now.
So begins the field diary of Alix Verhoeven, whose impulsive acceptance of an offer to spend Easter on a remote island has turned into a terrifying ordeal. Hiding in a tiny cave, she carefully rations out her meagre supplies, while desperately trying to figure out how to escape the men hunting her. She is determined not to be a victim.
What do they want with her? She knows it’s nothing good – she overheard enough on that first night to flee. But now she’s got little food or water, no way of calling for help, and only her skills as an exploration geologist and memories of Atkinson’s Bushcraft Guide to survive.
By day she is disciplined and lives by strict plans, but at night she finds herself haunted by questions about her life that she has never wanted to face.
And her time is running out.
Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:
I nearly read the book in one sitting while waiting for my mum’s car. Was disappointed that I couldn’t finish it then and there! A real page-turner, a story of survival – living off the land and hiding from pursuers, and Alix not really understanding why. Would recommend this Aussie based story. – Ingrid, VIC, 5 Stars
A gripping thriller from beginning to end and one of my favourite read to end the year. This novel takes no prisoners, you are thrown in at the deep end and expected to sink or swim. I absolutely adored this book, I was expecting an ordinary thriller, but this many-layered text provides so much more. The protagonist Alix in her struggle for survival engulfs us in her fear and makes sure we experience her struggle for survival as she does. This finely crafted novel is psychological, rather than upfront thriller and I was held transfixed till the end. It is a credit to the author that, despite most of the action occurring within the mind of the main character, it is no less edge-of-the seat riveting. I thoroughly enjoyed this not too dense novel that is a perfect summer read and cannot wait to read more by this author. – Sarah, NSW, 5 Stars
I LOVED this book. From the very beginning, you are catapulted into a tense and compelling page-turner. This is the type of book you cannot put down. It is a gripping and interesting read, following the nightmarish situation that Alix Verhoven has found herself in and what she has to do to survive. With the use of her knowledge, we are shown how Alix fights for her life by identifying native flora and fauna that can sustain her while trying to remain invisible to the people that are out to hurt her. We also get glimpses of Alix’s past, her relationships and how she has ended up where she is. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. – Nicole, VIC, 5 Stars
Elizabeth Flann has outdone herself with her new novel Beware of Dogs – thrilling, intense, full of suspense! This book is probably the most stressed I’ve felt reading a book – and it felt soooooo good! – Stacey, WA, 5 Stars
I could not put this book down. Loved every page and was kept in suspense from the beginning wondering why Alix was really in hiding just giving glimpses until the real story was finally revealed. What a clever woman trying to stay alive on an island paradise. It was super intense and a gripping story. No wonder it won the Banjo Prize. – Karen, QLD, 5 Stars
This book has a well-constructed plot which held my intrigue until the climax. Along the way, I learnt a little about Bush survival. Whether I’ll actually remember which fruits I can eat safely if needed I hope I never have to test. This was a thriller that is hard to put down once you start. The side plot of her tumultuous relationship with her father and his religion, as well as missing her mother and brother, meant Alix didn’t get peace even when she was relatively safely cocooned in her cave. Readers of different ages and gender should “enjoy” reading this Banjo Prize winner. – Sue, WA, 5 Stars
I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book, thrillers are not normally a genre I read. Instead, I was totally blown away and was hanging on every page. Alix’s experience was captivating and frightening and had my stomach in knots experiencing everything right along with her. Alix has a captivating back story, but right now, she is fighting for her life and she took me right along for the ride! – Kate, VIC, 5 Stars
The resilience and resourcefulness of the main character, Alix, is truly inspirational. The book draws you in and I found I was really cheering for her and hoping for a good outcome. Well researched and written, I really recommend this book to any readers. – Jenny, VIC, 5 Stars
Beware of Dogs is superbly written and really gripped me right from the beginning, a real page turner! – Laraine, QLD, 5 Stars
A tense and thrilling page-turner, with the interesting twist of surviving in a hostel environment. A definite page turner. – Leesy, NSW, 5 Stars
This book opens up with Alix writing in her field dairy and continues on this narrative through her harrowing survival on an Australian island with barely the bare essentials and her prolific knowledge and desire to survive. The story is entwined with memories of her past life contrasting her previously unresolved emotional trauma with her current undeniable physical trauma and I like to think this forced isolation was cathartic in the sense that she only has time to relive her memories and move past them. The story was captivating in a way that the plot of the antagonist was not identified all at once but slowly through the course of the adventure and the story is so well written that the ‘why’ isn’t really as important as Alix’s overall survival and rescue from this mostly deserted island.. before the dogs come for her! Tremendously well written and I’m not surprised that it was the proud winner of The Banjo Prize. I look forward to reading more of Elizabeth Flann’s work! – Mercury, NSW, 5 Stars
So refreshing to read a book that is different, even though themes and scenarios may be familiar with the writing style, the book set up and the read are fascinating. Throughout it feels like real-time, you are there with Alice, seeing what she sees, feeling what she feels, and all of that is very intense, frightening and very real. Clever writing that often says so much while saying little. Also great to read about a strong-minded, intelligent, determined and resourceful woman. The Australian landscape and climate provide a great setting for this island drama. A great read, I think many readers will enjoy and I look forward to what the author comes up with next. – Caroline, NSW, 5 Stars
I read this book so quickly, it was so hard to put down when I had to. I felt like I was on the island in the cave feeling the anxiety she felt. I felt educated too, learning how to survive, safe plant types, and what meat I could eat. It was such a page-turner, I didn’t want it to finish. A suspenseful ending, and a survival story I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, thanks for the opportunity to read. I would definitely recommend this book. – Julie, NSW, 5 Stars
Alix Verhoeven’s diary entry begins on Friday the 13th – an ominous beginning to her story. She outlines the routine she has self-imposed to ensure her survival on this island of the damned: foraging, exercising, diarising, and exploring the terrain whilst meticulously erasing any trace of her forays. A geologist, she carries a small backpack with field trip essentials and has rationed her supplies to last for 10 days. Professor Atkinson’s Guide to Bushcraft has been invaluable, but she broke the golden rule – and told no-one where she was going. Dave Grogan, former ‘boy next door’, his mate Matt, and the dodgy Duffy brothers, owners of menacing Rottweilers are the only ones who know. But what exactly is the menace they pose? By night Alix hides in a tiny cave dreading discovery, formulating a survival plan, enduring night terrors featuring her strict Dutch missionary father, who has doomed her to hellfire. Her meagre rations have gone rancid, the cabin’s pantry is padlocked but she’s determined to escape. In ‘Beware of Dogs’, Elizabeth Flann incrementally reveals the backstory to slowly build the tension. The chapter introductions begin with pertinent snippets from the Professor’s bushcraft guide but segue into King James Bible quotations as the horror escalates. How had it come to this? – Anita, QLD, 5 Stars
Such a good read! Clever use of flashbacks to set the scene and the diary entries are so descriptive and evocative. There are some heart-stopping moments and underlying tension. The characters are great and the storyline is complex but believable. The final pages, The Aftermath, however, felt a little unformed and could, I think, have been left out. But all up, one of the best Australian thrillers I have read in a long time. – Victoria, NSW, 5 Stars
Beware of Dogs follows the story of geologist Alix as she remains isolated on a small island with a very real danger close by. Elizabeth Flann’s storyline was seamless, the transition between the multiple timelines – modern world chapters, flashback chapters and diary entries – flowed exceptionally well. The lingering mystery within the plot held me capitative from cover to cover. Definitely excited to see what other novels Elizabeth Flann has up her sleeve, an author to keep an eye out for. Thank you to Better Reading for my ARC in exchange for an honest review. – Jacinda, NSW, 4 Stars
Alix, although not too happily, accepts an offer from an old neighbour, Dave, to go away for Easter. Dave deliberately tells her nothing of where they are going and Alix finds herself on an island with Dave, his creepy mate Matt and Matt’s girlfriend Lana. From here the tale turns into one of survival and Alix does all she can to survive day to day while avoiding the terrible two. The story often goes back to her memories, which are interesting. There is a lot of suspense keeping you interested and wondering what will happen to Alix next, will she survive is always the big question. Thanks to Better reading for a chance to read and review this great book which I would recommend. – Renee, QLD, 4 Stars
Wow! What a great debut novel! Trapped on a privately owned secluded island, Alix Verhoeven goes into survival mode, determined to stay alive. She is a resourceful lady and quite knowledgeable with the native flora, which is handy as she doesn’t have a great deal of food at hand. The build-up of tension, along with the insights into Alix’s psyche, made this a riveting read for me. I found that the inclusion of the map of the island was a great visual aid, I referred to it a few times throughout the story. – Caroline, QLD, 4 Stars
In the opening scene of the book, we read an excerpt from Alix’s diary that reveals she is hiding in a cave, fearing for her life. I was immediately pulled into the story and just wanted to keep reading on to find out who or what had Alix cornered, what events led to her predicament, and whether she eventually made it out of the cave to safety. The answers to all of my questions were slowly revealed throughout the book, making it a very suspenseful read. The story is told completely through Alix’s perspective, with a mixture of diary excerpts and first-person accounts. The timeline is non-linear, switching between her current, terrifying circumstance and her past: first, her childhood in Madagascar, then her study in the UK, and her journey to Australia. I thoroughly enjoyed this suspenseful, eerie, and fascinating read, and I would highly recommend it for those who like reading books with a strong sense of place, that allow them to escape to far-away places. – Amanda, QLD, 4 Stars
An original thriller set in a harsh Australian landscape that sets woman against predator and woman against nature. Although I longed for a few more thrills and conflict, the story of survival against the elements was interesting enough to keep the story moving. Alix, the female protagonist in this story, was a force to be reckoned with. – Lisa, VIC, 4 Stars
Beware of Dogs by Elizabeth Flann, was a very suspense-filled novel from start to finish. The references to food in nature was a very interesting accompaniment to the tense storyline. Throughout the novel, you could feel the emotion, desperation and sheer fear of Alix, willing for an ending to her confinement. This novel is one filled with the right balance of descriptive detail and clever writing that keeps you balancing on the edge of your seat! – Vanessa, NSW, 4 Stars
A harrowing place. Alix the narrator of “Beware of the Dogs” by Elizabeth Flann, took me with her into a disturbing desperate situation. I felt extreme tension lurking behind every rock. Alix had to make choices…for her survival, mentally and physically. I felt the stress of every move. It left me wondering what dreadful things were ahead… Who were they really? Should she run? Should she hide? What are the risks? I had to find out! A mystery wrapped in a thriller! – Mia, VIC, 4 Stars
This is a tense thriller novel. It follows Alix who is in the Australian bush using her survival skills to escape the men hunting her. A great read and a great new Australian author to check out. I loved the detail on indigenous Australian plants and survival against the elements. – Brenda, NSW, 4 Stars
Thank you Better Reading for the opportunity to read ‘Beware of Dogs’ by Elizabeth Flann. I really enjoy this book!! Alix is stranded on an island with a man who is obsessed with her. But she doesn’t realise exactly what he has in store until it’s too late. Elizabeth writes so you think you’re living in fear for your life. You feel as though you are right there with Alix fighting to survive. This book is definitely worth a read. – Judy, NSW, 4 Stars
After Alix Verhoeven impulsively accepts an invitation to a remote private island after bumping into old neighbour Dave and his friend Matt, she quickly learns that something is amiss and hides in a small cave stocked with a few essentials. Through the use of Alix’s field diary, we begin to learn exactly how she got into her predicament and realise how dangerous these men really are. She keeps to a strict schedule throughout the day to stay out of sight and by night, her thoughts stray to her difficult past and her sense of self and belonging within the world. I enjoyed how realistic this novel was and what I imagine to be an accurate experience of what being trapped on an island would be like. I loved learning about the native Australian flora and animal species Alix utilised that were imperative for her survival. The novel wasn’t exactly the high tensioned thriller I envisioned it to be, yet overall, was a fantastic story about the struggles of survival and the struggles of self-identity. – Christine, VIC, 4 Stars
Despite, at times, finding the storyline rather slow-paced, I still could not put this book down and found it very intense and compelling. A fantastic read. – Natalie, NSW, 4 Stars
I found beware of dogs a great read especially the survival parts of the story. I thought the other characters could have been more detailed, to get to know them better. The dogs could have had a more substantial role as the title suggests, a bit like jaws with the shark always coming back when you thought it was safe! I enjoyed the facts on native survival techniques and learnt a few new tricks for surviving the bush. It was a good book I found similar to stories like Wolf Creek, with the bad characters being, ‘swearing cheeky Aussie bloke types’. Overall it was a very suspenseful and thrilling experience. Thank you for a great read! – Ray, WA, 3 Stars
A tense and suspenseful book that will keep you engrossed throughout. Alix is a resourceful, tough and brave character, and has taught me a thing or two about surviving with nothing. A good page-turner, thoughtfully written, though very PC. – Ros, ACT, 3 Stars
Beware of Dogs by Elizabeth Flann was not the type of book I would usually choose to read. However, it did get me in and kept me reading until the end. It made me think why you would put yourself in this situation even though it is not until halfway through the book that we actually find out what the situation is. The suspense of just reading one more chapter to find out what was going on does keep you reading. I like how Australian Bushfoods and bushcraft were woven through the story as well as an explanation of what they were to start each chapter. I felt it ended a bit abruptly but in a way, it was probably the best way to do so. Overall, well worth a read. – Shani, NSW, 3 Stars
It’s a nice book. I did find that it took a little getting into, but once I had read a bit I wanted to know what happened. I would love to know how she lives the rest of her life and what happens to Matt and the Duffy brothers. – Megan, WA, 3 Stars
Great first novel, gripping from the beginning and certainly wanted to keep reading. Lots of good tips in their on survival strategies in case you ever need them. I did think the ending was a bit rushed otherwise loved this book. – Virginia, NSW, 3 Stars
Initially, I was hooked! The writing style and the story itself was interesting and intriguing. However, I did get a little confused with some of the characters and the main character’s background was rather complex! In the end, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I was going to from the start. – Emily, VIC, 2 Stars
I struggled to get into this book and found it quite slow going and quite boring. I also didn’t find it very suspenseful. – Nicky, NSW, 2 Stars
With the promise of a thrilling read, I was disappointed from the get-go. With the monotonous diary entries from the main character Alix, I struggled to engross myself in this book. – Kerrie, VIC, 1 Star